DIY Solder Tip Cleaner

About: Driven to make crazy ideas real.

Make your own solder tip cleaning pad quickly and cheap.

From most electronic supply stores you can buy a copper pad used to clean off excess solder from your soldering iron.  Most soldering stations however ship with a sponge that you moisten prior to each use.

The idea behind using a copper pad instead of a wet sponge is that heat is lost to the sponge and a few extra seconds are required after each cleaning to get your operating temperature back up.

The solution is to add a copper pad to your soldering station and save your money doing it.

The cheapest source for a pad is to visit your local grocery or department store.  What you are looking for is a package of copper scouring pads, or puffs as my package labels them.  These will be found in the kitchen cleaning supplies section.

One package will last you a lifetime and should only cost a few dollars. Cheaper than the electronic supply variant.

With a pad in hand simply cut the end that is tied together and the roll will come apart.  You can now roll off a pad sized to your own needs and trim off the remainder.  You only need a few layers so you should have a fair amount left over for future use.

Place this on or near your soldering station to keep your iron clean and hot.

This instructable may be super simple but also super useful to all you circuit junkies out there.



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    8 Discussions

    SparkFun sells a brass sponge for this purpose. Which is better, copper or brass?

    Also, does it eventually get saturated with solder so that it needs to be replaced?

    1 reply

    brass. its the industry standard for a few reasons.

    a) although brass is a copper alloy, it is softer than copper

    b) brass is more corrosion resistant than copper

    c) this is my personal reason, 1 pad will last a LONG time. (over a garbage can simply stretch the brass a little (only a little so it returns to near the original form), and shake out to remove any solder flakes. do this in multiple directions and your pad will last even longer).


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Heard that ordinary steel wool will damage the tip bit by bit and you need to replace it more frequently. So aren't those ones appearing in the kitchen cleaning section steel wool and shouldn't be used?

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    you are correct steel wool will scratch the irons tip. because steel is harder then any component of the tip.

    but the insteructable calls for copper wool, not steel wool.

    in reality you should bet bass wool. instead of steel or copper wool.


    1 year ago

    the pads made for tip cleaning are brass (which alloy of copper and zinc) not pure copper i do exclusively use brass pads and recommend you do as well. your better solder stations will include a brass pad holder (and maybe a sponge holder as well)

    if you do follow this instructable DO NOT GO EXTREMELY CHEAP, unless you want to risk destroying your irons tip. the cheap ones are made for general cleaning and will (more than likely) be coated in chemicals that instantly cause the complete oxidation of your tip. and by complete i mean with no method of recovering the tip other than sandpaper.

    you can buy proper ones for pretty cheap.

    before i got my hakko, i bought a holder and 1 brass sponge from menards for a few dollars. (it was in the plumbing section)

    and at micro center between 1 and 2 years ago, bought a 5 pack of replacement pads for $6.99 +tax (and i know it was $6.99 because the bag has the price sticker on it of $6.99.)

    at this time i have only completely used 1 pad and am on my second pad, so i have 4 pads left over (5 in the refill pack + the one that came with my holder - 2 used or in use)

    also use something to hold the pad. because the solder will flake off and make a pile of solder dust. (the holder really makes cleanup much easier)

    my iron is a hakko FX-888D and it uses smaller pads then the standard sized ones (so i will tear the pads in half (they are soft and no need for scissors))

    the included iron stand had 3 parts, the holder with drip tray, brass pad slot, and sponge holder. because i dont use sponges, this will generally hold accessories and consumables (like solder wick, my roll of solder, and my extra tips (because i dont have a spot for those yet)

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job! Sometimes the subtle changes can save you a lot of money in the long run. Would you need to add flux to the copper strands to clean the tip?

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comment Keven.

    To answer your question, there is no flux necessary. Like a newly stripped wire the copper will gladly accept the solder.

    Flux is used to remove surface contaminants such as oils, and oxidization. Now, will the eventual oxidization of the copper lead to reduced solder wicking properties? Possibly, however I have never encountered this.